I need air, water, food, and a roof over my head.
I need my wife, my family, and my friends.
I need my dog.
I need the outside. And not just any outside, but an outside that is vast, wild, and full of mountains, with big sturdy trees, rocky windswept ridgelines, snow-filled couloirs, free-flowing rivers, and animals that remind us we're part of something greater.
I need the changing of the seasons. I need the vibrant colors of summer and fall to contrast the dichromatic blur of winter and spring. I need the heat of August to appreciate the cold of December, when arctic air bites my nose and keeps my senses sharp.
I need it to snow, and I need it to snow a lot: big huge drifts that bury my entire town. I need to see it piled up on my truck in the morning, to see the flakes swirling down from the sky by the billions, to see them swarm the streetlights like moths and stack up on pine needles inch by delicate inch. I need to hear the silence of falling snow to remember that the world is still a peaceful place, and to hear avalanche bombs that send electricity through my veins.
I need a chairlift, and I need to live close by so that I can go when it's good and when it's not so good. I need the not-so-good days to illustrate why the good days are so damn good, and why the good days make it worthwhile—despite the exorbitant costs—to live close to a chairlift.
I need a season pass so I can go skiing whenever the hell I feel like it.
I also need a skin track. Because on some days, it's not about how many runs I can get but the quality of one run.
I need my ski area to appreciate its locals, and have restraint when it comes to development. It seems like "capital improvements" aren't improvements at all, but rather a continued erosion of the skiing experience. What I need is for skiing to remind me why I started skiing in the first place. Anything else is just Disneyland.
I need boots that fit right, and skis that make differently shaped turns depending on the terrain. I need my ski pants to keep my butt dry during wet days, and my jacket to block the wind when the chairlift crosses that one ridge where it always gets so brutally cold.
I need a ski partner who pushes me but also knows when to back down and say no, and, just as important, is willing to slack off and cruise the easy stuff.
But really, I just need to ski. Powder, spring corn, windbuff, steep chalk, fresh corduroy, slushy bumps at 3 o'clock, storm skiing in the trees, pink alpenglow at last chair—I need it all, for one is not the same without the other.
It seems silly in the grand scheme of things, but skiing is what makes me who I am. Yeah, I could probably live without it—anyone can survive with just air, water, food, a roof—but I wouldn't be me. Ultimately, when my life is on the short end of the leash, I'd wonder about all those days I might have missed gliding down a snow-covered mountain, hearing the laughter of my friends and the hiss of powder as it flies past my shoulders.
Without skiing, I'd have that remorseful cold stone lodged deep within my soul known as regret.
And if there's one thing I don't need, it's regret.
This story originally appeared in the December 2018 (47.4) issue of POWDER. To have great stories like this delivered right to your door, in print, subscribe here.